Insights / Research Brief•Feb 01, 2022
Liquidity, Liquidity Everywhere, not a Drop to Use: Why Flooding Banks with Central Bank Reserves May Not Expand Liquidity
Viral V. Acharya, Raghuram Rajan
Despite a significant expansion in central bank balance sheets, some markets like the US money market have experienced increasing interest rate volatility, including significant spikes in the repo rate, notably in September 2019 (see Copeland, Duffie and Yang (2021), Correa, Du, and Liao (2021), D’Avernas and Vanderweyer (2021), and Yang (2021)). This apparent disruption in money markets that depend intimately on the availability of liquidity seems puzzling when the cash and central bank reserves held by the US private sector at the end of 2019 were around 4 times their holdings before the Global Financial Crisis in 2007. Greater liquid holdings do not seem to have made markets for liquidity more immune to liquidity shocks. Indeed, markets were disrupted yet again in March 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and the banking system was found short in its ability to accommodate the demand for liquidity. In response, the Federal Reserve expanded its balance sheet yet more (see, for example, Kovner and Martin (2020)), buying financial assets from the private sector and placing large quantities of liquid reserves with it (or promising to do so). Where had all the prior liquidity gone?